American Elephants

The Fry-Scraper: A Tale of Unintended Consequences by The Elephant's Child

The Looming Shortfall of STEM Graduates? A Myth! by The Elephant's Child

You know the litany. There aren’t enough young people studying scientific or technical subjects. America’s technical edge is threatened. The shortfall of workers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics is so important that i has received its very own acronym — STEM graduates. And it is not only the United States, but Japan, the United Kingdom, Australia, China, and many more countries. The predicted shortfall us supposed to number in the hundreds of thousands.

President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology reported in 2012 that over the next decade we would need one million additional STEM graduates. Governments are pouring billions of dollars into programs to train 10,000 new U.S. engineers every year as well as new STEM teachers. Until those new graduates arrive, big tech companies like Facebook, IBM and Microsoft are lobbying to raise the number of H-1B visas — temporary immigration permits for skilled workers —from 65,000 per  year to as man as 180,000. The EU is similarly attempting to bring in skilled workers from outside the EU. India’s government says it needs to add 800 new Universities to avoid a shortfall of 1.6 million university-educated engineers by the end of the decade.

Yet the IEEE Spectrum magazine from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers says firmly that there are more STEM workers than there are suitable jobs. Wages have largely stagnated since 2000, and STEM workers at every career state struggle to find employment as many companies, including Boeing, IBM and Symantec, continue to lay off thousands of STEM workers.

Every year U.S. schools grant more STEM degrees than there are available jobs. When you add in the H-!B visa holders, existing STEM degree holders it is hard to make a case for the fabled shortage. In trying to understand the disparity, the author of the article says that there is indeed a STEM crisis, but it is one of literacy. Today’s students are not receiving a solid grounding in science, math and engineering. Counts of the numbers of STEM jobs depend on different metrics. The Department of Commerce says 7.6 million individuals worked in STEM jobs in 2010. The National Science Foundation (NSF) counts 12.4 million science and engineering jobs in the U.S. but includes health care workers, psychologists and social scientists.

Of the 7.6 million STEM workers counted by Commerce, only 3.3 million possess a STEM degree. New grads surveyed in 2006 and 2007 found that 2 out of 10 were working in non-STEM fields. And 10 years after receiving a STEM degree 58 percent of STEM graduates had left the field. So you don’t necessarily need a STEM degree to get a STEM job.

More than 370,000 science and engineering jobs in the United States were lost in 2011, according to the BLS. Many jobs are targets for outsourcing or replacement by automation. In many cases a job is not linked to a company, but to a funded project, which can end quickly when a project ends.

The alarm over graduates seems to be a phenomenon that started in World War II, and runs in cycles of “alarm, boom, and bust.” Governments push the STEM myth because an abundance of scientists and engineers is perceived as an important engine for innovation and for national defense. STEM skills seem more important in the decline of the humanities, but conversely many STEM graduates are lacking in the ability to think broadly and read  and write clearly.

Well, yes. Our education system has become much more concerned with political correctness, diversity, ethnicity, gender, sexual preference and leftist politics while disparaging the Humanities and the Great Books which endeavored to teach that which was best and true in all that man had thought and done  — and how that informed the present.  And governments always seem to be operating on the wrong information — that’s just what bureaucracies do.


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